Posted on Tuesday 12 April 2011 at 09:09 am in category: USA
In the past week 7 people read this, in the past month 22 people read this.
Today, I have taken my 'being an american' to a whole new level. I now have a sign in my yard. The United States is the only country I know where people express their political views by putting a sign in their yard. Especially when elections are coming closer, almost every house will have a sign (or more than one) to tell you who or what to vote for. In The Netherlands only die-hard partisans would do this. The rest of the population would probably rather have a red hot soldering iron shoved up their nose than tell anybody what their political preferences are.
American politics differ from Dutch politics in a lot of ways. For example, most of the time when voting here in the US, you have two choices for every issue: who is going to be president (choose between these two idiots please), if you are in favor of a tax raise to keep the school going (yes or no), if you agree on having bars serve alcohol on Sundays (yes or no) and a ton of other things.
In the Netherlands, you would have to choose from about 15 parties or so (the number varies with every election), which have opinions on each issue that can be anywhere in between a simple 'Yes' or 'No'. 'Yes, but only if...' and 'No, unless...' are only two examples of this. Because of the amount of parties, one party rarely gets an absolute majority, so after the elections a long period of negotiations begins, where two or more parties (whatever combination makes a majority) have to agree to work together as a government. Every issue is painstakingly negotiated, until nothing is left of the promises either party made before the elections. Unresolved issues will just stay in the background for a while, until there is a new round of elections.
Dutch people like to negotiate. They grow up with it, because between elections, parties are negotiating about everything all the time, and Dutch TV stations like to cover this until the bitter end. Until it is time for elections again, then they will all have their own opinions again, set in stone. Dutch people will negotiate about almost everything, the outcome usually being somewhere in the middle. That is a consensus, which is a fancy word to describe the feeling that everybody is somewhat happy with the final decision, although not as happy as they could have been. This is called the 'Poldermodel', which for some reason is a internationally acclaimed way of doing things the wrong way.
Americans do not have that natural urge to negotiate about every little detail. This is probably because back in the day, the preferred method of negotiation was pulling a gun and see who shoots first. the good thing is, that this is exactly why you can save money litterally everywhere here. Let me give you an example that you can use in your everyday life.
Let's assume you wanted to buy a nice TV, for example a Samsung - 55" Class / 1080p / 120Hz / LED-LCD HDTV. If you look this up on the BestBuy website, the price is $2199.99, which is of course a lot of money. Now what you should do is google (yes, that is a verb) the part number for that TV, and go to some website where they advertise the same TV at a lower price, like here, where you can supposedly buy the same thing for $1589 (it does not matter if this is true or not). Print that webpage out, and take it to your local BestBuy. Show some interest in the TV, and when you are approached by a sales person, present him with the print out, and tell him you want to buy it right now, but of course for the lower price (this works best at the end of the month). Chances are you will either get it for that price, or you will get a big discount. The only thing you have to do really is ask.
In the Netherlands, the salesperson would probably just laugh at you to start with, and start arguing that just shipping would be at least $100, and then explain all the benefits you get from buying it in a store, warranties, free pick-up and replacement if it breaks, until you give up and just buy the damn thing. The sales guy really doesn't care if you buy it or not, or at least will give you that feeling. He has all the time in the world until the store closes, and he will make you feel that way. Do not try this if you don't have time, because a good sales person will sense that you are in a hurry, and are therefore more likely to agree with him.
If the guy at BestBuy has had some training and does not give you the discounted price, that's when it gets interesting. Now you will have to negotiate. Look around, and see if there is something in the store that you want, like — for example — a nice wall-mount for the TV. Now tell him you want to buy the TV (at a slightly discounted price) but you also want him to throw in that wall mount for free. Whatever the outcome is, I garantee you that you will walk out with that TV for less than the sticker price, or with a bunch of free goodies.
Practice this at home first, but if you are a man, never practice on your own wife. You will end up loosing, and doing dishes for the rest of your life. You never negotiate with your wife, because wives have a thing called 'the man-trap', and you will end up in that trap. If you are a woman, feel free to practice this on your husband.